This is a guest blog from Chase Glantz. You can read more of Chase’s writing here.
“Shut up! We’re trying to pray!”
Our kind, but very serious, Romanian caretaker yelled to a boisterous gang outside. After a moment of awkward stillness, her heels clicked back on the tile and she half smiled, “Okay. Now we can start…”
After prayer, there was a lesson on Romanian history. It told of the torture, oppression, and many unspeakable acts of violence that were still fresh in the minds of many citizens.
“You are here to bring the joy of Christ to the people. People here have forgotten how to smile.”
While the sentimentality touched my heart, a little piece of me thought, “Man… that’s it?” I kept thinking I would be holding crying orphans or something else that could be found on a religious magazine cover asking you for money.
I felt like I was in over my head.
We stayed in a city notorious for ethnic violence. Stories of neighbors fighting neighbors haunted us as we slept. We even watched a documentary about a secret concentration prison discovered down the street from us. When we were told that we’d be planning an English and bible camp for the local neighborhood, I really didn’t see how it would change years of oppression.
The kids loved our contact and his lessons. However, when I taught however, I felt like I was at best another “Jesus” fellow with no real importance (and at worst, because I wasn’t Greek-orthodox; someone branded me a “cult member”).
After teaching kids basic English and token worship songs, I began to think that I was just another cheesy American missionary trying to minimize years of generational pain. Before I was about to hand my embarrassment off to my other teammate, one of them suggested,
“Chase, why don’t you rap for them?”
I froze. My free styled improvisations were a dreaded hobby stemming from my like of poetry. They started off smoothly, but almost always ended in traffic jam of mental constipation. But before I could say no, a crowd of curious Romanian kids perked up and stared at me with anticipation. It was a look of hope. It was the first time I had seen that look on anyone there.
So I said a silent prayer and began. It wasn’t great. I think I rhymed “all up in your cranium” with “here in Romania”. One by one, I used up all of my pre-planned rhymes. Even still, the kids were transfixed.
One by one I found more things to rhyme than I ever had in my whole life. It was like God was having me rap with all that I had in me for the sake of joy, killing my insecurity and some Romanian sadness simultaneously. It was a beautiful, albeit strange, sight. When I finished, there was a pause of utter shock, followed by a resounding sound of applause and smiles exploding in the room.
As the sound of joy echoed off the walls, I realized we were all there seeing God, in a new way, bringing a smile to our faces.
Afterward, all I could do was pray with thanksgiving and grin.